Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994) Review

Pop quiz: who would you consider the worst director of all time? Michael Bay? Not really, he's good at what he's just that what he does is terrible. M. Night Shamalyan? Very likely but most people within the business would point their fingers towards Edward D. Wood Jr. Infamous director of Plan 9 from Outer Space and Bride of the Monster (maybe I'll look at them later), Wood's life was so fascinating that Tim Burton decided to take a crack at representing his life on film. How well does it do? Let's find out.

In 1950s Hollywood, Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) is a struggling director attempting to break into the film industry. His luck changes when he persuades producer George Weiss (Mike Starr) to direct a film about a famous transsexual. Wood turns it into a film about his own cross dressing fetish and his career grows from there as he tricks more producers, mingles with celebrities and having to deal with the issues of creative control. One notable day, Wood meets Dracula himself Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) and the two quickly become friends over Wood's respect for Lugosi despite him being a washed up actor at this point in his life.

Are you sick of Johnny Depp phoning in many roles and do you actually want to see him be a legitimately good actor? Look no further than Ed Wood. Depp captures the enthusiasm and childlike innocence of Wood while portraying his complicated nature. It's almost depressing seeing such an enthusiastic, inspired mind churn out so many terrible films. You want him to have that one big hit. What I love about Ed Wood is that every actor, even the extras, are all excellent and memorable. The tiniest of actor leaves in impression. It's so rare in a film but this nails it. The real star of the film, however, is Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi. His acting is phenomenal and he mimics Bela Lugosi perfectly. What helps this is the amazing, Oscar-winning make-up to make Landau look exactly like Lugosi. It's like he rose from the grave (fitting, really).

This is truly a fascinating film and a definite watch for anyone interested in the industry. We get to see a lot of scenes about the creation of film but also what NOT to do. We are positioned to side with the crew as Wood makes some 'interesting' creative decisions (only do one take, for example). It's fascinating because I can see WHY he would make these decisions as it assists in the realism of his films but there is a limit. Tim Burton's direction is a valuble asset here as is the brilliant decision to make the film black and white in order to recapture the style of Ed Wood's films (as well as being bookended by a monologue from Jeffrey Jones as Criswell).

Ed Wood is one of Tim Burton's finest films. The acting on all accounts is brilliant and Burton clearly had a lot of creative control, something that echos Ed Wood's films (in fact, Wood's relationship with Lugosi could be similar to Burton's relationship with Vincent Price...maybe). It's the perfect way to represent Ed Wood's work and makes me want to see his terrible as they are.

A fine example of creative control in a motion picture combined with top notch acting and a unique style.

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